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The pair sold stolen goods from Toys ‘R’ Us in the online marketplace, police say.
On May 9, a Toys ‘R’ Us employee at a store in Boynton Beach, FL, noticed that something was awry in the Lego section, which had been fully stocked that morning. Several boxes were missing, some toy pieces were unpackaged or hidden behind other items on the shelf, and all the Harry Potter Lego sets were gone. A register check revealed that the missing items hadn’t been sold. Employees viewed video from the store’s security cameras and saw a man stuffing a large box for another product with the missing Legos.
Toys ‘R’ Us was a victim of a con known as ‘box stuffing,’ wherein a customer removes items from a box and fills it with more expensive ones before checking out. The stolen Lego sets, five in total, were worth $879.84, according to the retailer.
The retailer called the police, and investigators caught a break: The thief checked out with a rewards card. Investigator Patrick Farley of the Broward County sheriff’s office traced the card to a woman, Margaret Pollara, 70, who police allege is the mother of the man who stuffed the box with Legos. They identify him as Ignatius Michael Pollara, 46. The card was linked to similar purchases in multiple states, so Farley decided to open an investigation.
The investigation resulted in the arrest Aug. 8 of Margaret and Ignatius Michael Pollara. Broward County authorities allege that they had been stealing for at least three months using the box-stuffing scheme at stores around the country, then selling the items on eBay. Altogether, they’d made more than $909,000 on eBay under two accounts, Linemart and Buymart-USA, police say.
Between the police investigation’s launch on May 9 and the Pollaras’ arrests on Aug. 8, Ignatius Pollara had made more than 175 purchases, totaling $6,737.94, from 139 Toys ‘R’ Us stores in 27 states, according to the affidavit for his arrest. He was charged with 13 counts of conspiracy, theft, scheming to defraud and dealing in stolen property; his mother on six counts of conspiracy, theft and scheming.
Investigators retrieved Ignatius Pollara’s home address by buying a Mickey Mouse software game from one of his eBay accounts and following the return label to his Tamarac, FL, home, the affidavit says. They then began on July 9 monitoring his house and movements. Over the next few weeks, they witnessed Pollara, his mother and an unnamed male conspirator pull the box-stuffing routine in a number of stores, including multiple Toys ‘R’ Us locations, Kmart and CVS, police say. Some of the stolen items quickly turned up for sale on Pollara’s eBay storefronts, police say. They also noted Pollara making frequent trips to drop off packages at FedEx.
According to the sheriff's office, he is still in custody with a bond set at $318,500. His mother was released on Friday, Aug. 24 on a $29,100 bond. The office did not have information about either of their legal representation.
“It is an unfortunate fact that with any channel of commerce, criminals try to beat the system,” says an eBay spokesman, who declined to comment on individual accounts. “EBay continues to be proactive and collaborative with both retailers and law enforcement to stop theft.”
Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. is No. 29 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, CVS Caremark Corp. is No. 88 and Kmart is a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp., No. 8.